Ilya Ehrenburg Clinton Simpson - Essay

Clinton Simpson

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Ehrenbourg attempted a man-sized piece of writing in ["The Extraordinary Adventures of Julio Jurenito and His Disciples"]—a broad satire aimed at certain national, or so to speak, official characteristics of European countries and America (including some minor satirical thrusts at the war, politics, propaganda, the Soviet Government, etc.). In fact, it seems that for one book—even so long a book as this one—he attempted too much, more than he could carry out. Parts of his book are excellent satire—biting, fresh, derisive. Other parts, including much of the extravagant nonsense which binds the narratives together, fall pretty flat….

The plan of the tale is roughly that of a picaresque novel. Julio Jurenito, an international rogue, without convictions but with an immense fund of casual commentary, travels through Europe picking up disciples from every nation…. As a whole, his career seems contradictory and meaningless; he stands, perhaps, for the complete modern disbeliever and anarchist.

It is in the characters of his disciples that Ehrenbourg's satire strikes most deeply. Each of these is not only a character, but also a national caricature, symbolizing certain aspects of each country and embodying, in their exaggeration, the author's criticism of each….

The exploits of these strange companions in international politics, in business, and in love are always amusing, sometimes hilariously so, in spite of the bitter reflections that are constantly just beneath the surface. Ehrenbourg has courage; in Mr. Cool and M. Delhaie he has produced two figures of Gargantuan proportions and great satiric strength. It is unfortunate for the effectiveness of his book that it is so loosely knit.

Clinton Simpson, "Picaresque Adventures," in The Saturday Review of Literature (copyright © 1930 by Saturday Review; all rights reserved; reprinted by permission), Vol. VII, No. 1, July 26, 1930, p. 7.